Ryo Onoda is a straight guy and he is three years younger than Harumi Deguchi. They have nothing in common and at first, they were just friends. But that’s not enough for Harumi- he wants more from Ryo and he realizes that he has fallen in love with him. Feeling anxious and emotional, he wants to tell him how he feels… but he can’t. Fearing rejection, he’d rather be just friends and not ruin what he has with him. Here- we have a story of pain, sorrow and happiness of being in love.
Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly is the side story featuring the couple Onoda x Deguchi from “No Touching At All.”
Friends to lovers it’s, for many reasons, my favorite kind of romance. Onoda and Deguchi spend a fair amount of time being drinking buddies and getting developed as relatable, dynamic characters. There’s a certain easiness in the air when they’re together, which speaks volumes about how comfortable they made the other feel.
Still, Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly it’s marketed as an angsty ride, and boy do we have angst. One of the strongest points of the story it’s how quickly and effectively it gets us on Deguchi’s head, the man with the “unrequited” love. I especially liked how Kou Yaneda relayed mostly on her art, rather than just monologue, to convey Deguchi’s feelings. There were moments where no one uttered a single word, but we still could tell everything that was going through Deguchi’s head thanks to the carefully selected expressions and close-ups. There’s monologue when it’s needed, but I appreciate how Yaneda allowed the story to breathe by just stopping everything and make us look at Deguchi. Her art can sometimes look a little uneven, but she knows when to make it count.
After falling for two different men –and starting a relationship with one–, it’s safe to say that Onoda (bless his heart) it’s absolutely not straight, regardless of how much the story refuses to believe it. Even So avoids most of the typical BL tropes, but it hilariously clings to the notion that one gay dude can totally seduce and “convert” a straight man. However, it’s a train of thought that’s mostly unrelated to Deguchi, and it doesn’t receive much attention, so it’s relatively easy to ignore it (your mileage might vary).
You can tell this one is a spin-off because the characters would sometimes refer to the side couple –and the apparent homophobia they faced– in a manner that assumes that we already know (or care) about them. The story works well as a standalone, so it’s not really necessary to pick up the previous one to enjoy this one, but there might be some minor confusion over a couple of scenes.
BL short stories can sometimes follow a pattern: fall in love, get together, kiss, smut. Some drama ensues, they fight, they make up, smut again. Even So follows this pattern, except most of the smut happens off panel. Instead, the focus it’s mostly on the character’s feelings and how they slowly build a relationship they’re comfortable with. And it’s an enjoyable relationship too, you can tell how fond Deguchi is of Onoda, and how much fun Onoda has when he’s with him. They can go from easily admitting jealousy at one moment to wholesome piggyback rides almost instantly.
However, not everything is easy. Their insecurities can sometimes get the worse of them, which does result in them hurting each other. Still, it always feels justified and/or understandable, rather than drama happening for the sake of drama.
Overall, Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly it’s an enjoyable read. It’s a grounded love story between two consenting adults, angsty without ever overdoing it, sweet and funny when it needs to, and with flaws that are relatively easy to ignore.
This title is licensed by Juné, with 1 volume available. It’s currently out of print, but it’s digitally available on Juné’s website.
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